JOHNSON CITY (WBNG) — Prostitution is a big problem in Broome County. Public websites and social media are making it easier to arrange than ever.
“It’s something that law enforcement really cant keep up with,” said Johnson City Police Chief Brent Dodge. He’s concerned about the growing number of prostitution cases happening right here in Broome County.
“What we’ve seen now is a transition to online advertising if you will, so people go on different websites,” Dodge told 12 News.
It happens everyday. “Anywhere that two people can meet it can take place,” said Johnson City Police Detective Sergeant Daniel VanWie.
Websites like “Binghamton Backpage”, and “Skip The Games” have hundreds of local prostitutes advertising their services. “They’re pretty much not even trying to hide that it’s for the purposes of prostitution,” said VanWie.
He says the greater Binghamton Area is a hub for these online advertisements which pose a danger for everyone involved.
“We’ve had incidents where a person goes to meet a prostitute and gets robbed or vice versa the prostitutes were beaten or worse,” said VanWie.
Police say for the prostitutes themselves drug addiction is often where it all starts.
“It’s definitely one of the main driving factors of people getting into that lifestyle,” Dodge explained.
But that lifestyle isn’t always driven by choice.
Dodge said, “There’s a significant percentage of people working as prostitutes who are being controlled by someone else so the word of the day with respect to that is human trafficking.”
Traffickers force victims into prostitution often for money or drugs. And it’s happening among us.
“There’s human trafficking going on right here in Broome County,” said Dodge.
It makes cracking down on prostitution much more difficult.
“So when you do a drag net online the people that get caught up in that are the prostitutes, but in a matter of speaking they’re really actually the victims in the bigger picture,” Dodge told 12 News.
“It’s hard to prosecute because a lot of the victims kind of feel afraid to speak out about it,” said human trafficking victim Salka Valerio. She shares her story publicly, in hopes of helping others.
“I didn’t even know I was being trafficked until later on in years when I seen the word and actually seen the definition,” she said.
At the age of just 14 Valerio was abused and sold for sex. She was trafficked for more than a year before she was able to escape. Valerio now works at the Crime Victims Assistance Center using her past to improve other peoples futures.
“Now I can go back and kinda help people that may have been in this situation and let them know that you can turn your own story around,” said Valerio.
She has a message for traffickers. “We’re going to make sure that you pay consequences for selling human bodies.”
Chief Dodge says the key to prosecuting traffickers is cooperation from victims.
If you or someone you know is being trafficked you can contact the Crime Victims Assistance Center’s Crisis Line at 607-722-4256.